November 26, 2009 / 11:22 PM / in 8 years

Afghan whistleblower mistaken: ex-boss

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian diplomat who says officials ignored his warnings about the abuse of detainees handed over to Afghan authorities was mistaken, the man’s former boss told a Parliamentary committee on Thursday.

The criticism by David Mulroney, a former top adviser in Afghanistan, comes as the Conservative government tries hard to demolish allegations by diplomat Richard Colvin, who testified last week that Canada’s policy of prisoner transfers in 2006 and 2007 was deeply flawed and most likely illegal.

Colvin said virtually all of the prisoners handed over to the Afghan NDS intelligence service in 2006 and 2007 had been abused and alleged most of them had been innocent civilians.

But Mulroney, the senior bureaucrat in charge of the Afghan file at the time, testified on Thursday that some of Colvin’s statements were wrong.

“I didn’t agree with his assertion that everybody who went into the NDS was tortured, that the detainees were all farmers or probably all innocent,” Mulroney told a House of Commons committee on Afghanistan. “This is where I think he went from an observation to speculation.”

Canada has 2,700 troops in the southern city of Kandahar on a combat mission that is due to end in 2011. So far, 133 have been killed and public support for the mission is waning.

The government is refusing to release Colvin’s reports on security grounds.

On Wednesday, two top retired generals denied Colvin’s allegations that Canadians handed over detainees even though they knew there was a risk of torture. If true, this would have been a war crime.

The generals also said there had been nothing in Colvin’s early reports to suggest abuse was a risk -- a statement Mulroney said was true.

But questioned vigorously by opposition legislators, he was unable to state categorically that none of the prisoners handed over had been abused.

Government ministers say Colvin’s evidence is weak and portray him as a man who was duped by the Taliban.

Mulroney took a noticeably softer line, saying Colvin had put in good work under very difficult circumstances.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson

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